Lee F. Szczepanik is the driving force behind Daring Entertainment and creator of War of the Dead and Savage Worlds licensee. He has graciously consented to answer a few questions for me, so here we go.
So, Dawn of Legends was originally written for Mutants and Masterminds then adapted for Savage Worlds, did you feel SW could bring something different that M&M could not?
There were a lot of reasons we brought Dawn of Legends over to Savage Worlds back in 2008. Unfortunately, in hindsight none of them were good reasons. At the time, we were new to Savage Worlds gaming (having just decided to try it as of GenCon 2007), and didn't really understand the game, its fans, or what we should have been doing, anywhere near as well as we thought we did.
Dawn of Legends just was not the product we wanted it to be, which is the major reason it is no longer on the market.
Do you read comics, and if so, what do you read?
Up until this past summer, I used to read Avengers, Captain America, and X-Men from Marvel; and too many DC Comics to name.
As of a couple of months ago, I've taken a break from the Big Two. I'm not just happy with what Marvel is doing right now, and having been a DC Comics reader for the past 30 years, I've grown tired with one universe altering event after another. Crisis on Infinite Earths, Zero Hour, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, Flashpoint . . . and now the so called "soft reboot". For me, it's just too much of a particular thing. I'm also a little less than thrilled about some of the character changes.
So, I'll be borrowing the Reboot collections from the local library, but won't be purchasing them.
But that's okay, as I feel the Reboot is geared more at gaining a new generation of readers as opposed to worrying about the older fans (which is fair, I suppose, given the state of the industry).
So, right now I am reading The Walking Dead, and anything by Mark Waid from BOOM! Studios.
So far in War of the Dead, I have noticed a few nods to popular zombie fiction (comics and movies), not just copying wholesale. Knowing that you are familiar with the genre, what are your favorite things from there?
A couple of key things, actually. First of all, I love the concept behind the Living Dead. Whether they are the Romero Shamblers, or the Synder Sprinters, the danger of a simple scratch meaning that you are already dead (just might not know it), brings a whole, new level of horror to the story.
The second is the characters. If written correctly, in my opinion, a zombie story should focus on everyday people thrust into an impossible fight for survival. It should boil down to the internal lines each of us possesses. How far would a mother, a father, or a child go to not only survive, but to protect their family and loved ones? If it came down to it, and such a thing could ever happen, how many would actually be able to survive without the technology and amenities of 21st century society, never mind do so while surviving against millions of monsters trying to eat you.
The concept behind the zombie apocalypse should push the characters to new external and internal limits, and make the readers/viewers take a hard, long look at themselves.
To me, good zombie apocalypse fiction is a reflection of our own problems and fears in the world, through a glass, darkly.
Since WotD is a weekly thing (over a year), did you start off with an outline of what you wanted to accomplish?
We started off with a detailed outline. In some cases, certain weeks actually contained anywhere from 2-4 version of the adventure. These outlines then went to the play test groups. They ran them, provided detailed reports, and I wrote the published version based upon a middle ground, so to speak, on what the groups did, how they had NPCs act and react, and so forth.
Naturally, since the debut in June 2010, the story has changed a bit. Future adventures have been rewritten (and play tested) entirely. Things that were mentioned as "Coming in the next Chapter" or "Coming down the line" at the end of a Chapter ended-up being changed because the newer versions, as the setting grew over the past 18 months, were much stronger and less forced.
War of the Dead is both a planned campaign, and yet something that remains very fluid.
Now for something a bit different, what first triggered your love of fiction (or games)?
That's a tough one to answer. My first foray into actual RPGs was the old Marvel Superheroes RPG from TSR; as opposed to the more common Dungeons & Dragons (as a matter of fact, D&D is the RPG that I have played the least in my 25 years of gaming).
Before that, though, as I mentioned in the introduction to GET Into Action, my first real experience was the old G.I. Joe toys. I had a vast majority of the old A Real American Hero line, including the bigger things like the G.I. Joe Headquaters, Cobra Terrordrome, U.S.S. Flagg, and most the figures and vehicles.
Anyway, everyday after school, my siblings and I would set it all up and run our own G.I. Joe episodes. We had continuing plot lines, character subplots, and even did our best to imitate the voices from the cartoon show. So, in a very real sense, that was my first experience in both role-playing and creative writing, even before I discovered RPGs.
Which writer/creator do you admire most and why?
No question about it, Roger Zelazny. He was not only my first forray into reading and enjoying it, but thanks to the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, I was able to eventually get in touch with him. First as a fan through the mail, then later as a friend on the phone and at some conventions. Roger read and edited a lot of my early work, and taught me a lot about the business end of writing. The guidance he gave me on story structure, writing in general, and characterization, is something I still use today.
Hanging above my desk is an In Memorium plaque for Roger that was given to me by a local Borders bookstore in 1995. I'd shopped there quite a bit, and the manager happened to know about my friendship with Roger (he was also a fan). So, after the display that commemorated Roger's death was over, he called me up and asked if I'd wanted it.
Without a doubt, I would not be writing today if not for Roger Zelazny.
Aside from RPG’s, do you write anything else?
In the past, I have been a comic book writer for one of the Big Two, a novelist, a screenwriter, and a script editor in Hollywood.
Presently, besides RPGs, I am working on two novels that will be released in 2013 (or so the plan goes).
Any upcoming projects we can look forward to?
For Savage Worlds we have more War of the Dead on the way beyond the scope of Chapter Four. We also have the World of the Dead plot-point setting, which takes place roughly 7 years after War of the Dead.
Hellspawn will be releasing soon, which is super-heroes and zombies, and draws inspiration from things such as Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots, and DC Comics' Blackest Night event.
After all that, I'll be relaunching GET Into Action as a full blown plot point setting.
Outside of Savage Worlds, we have the Daring Comics Adventure Game, which is a new super-hero RPG that has been in design and play test for two years, and will be releasing in 2012. We are already at work on the first two sourcebooks for the RPG, as well.
Besides that game, we will also be releasing another RPG system that is designed to handle Pullp, Fantasy, Science Fiction, and everything in between. We already have 2 settings planned for that RPG, as well.
Finally on the plate, and not slated until a 2013 release, we are working on a very cool Zombie Apoclaypse collectible card game; as well as a board game that I can't mention too much about.
Beyond the gaming industry, Daring Entertainment is putting things in place to expand into the E-novel market. We've just negotiated a deal for that industry that is similar to what we have with Cubicle 7 Entertainment for the RPG industry, and already have a couple of known authors willing to work with us.
Thanks for your time and I am looking forward to the finale of War of the Dead coming next year, take care!!
Thanks for taking the time to let me ramble!